Are you overwhelmed with the all the advice surrounding food?
Follow me while I get a friend and an expert to debunk myths and shed light on feeding your body as it needs.
Let me introduce you to a dear friend, who never fails to inspire and guide me through struggles of sticking to a diet, supplementing my nutrition and being healthy!!
Hi! I’m, Aahat – a dietitian who eats. I love talking all things health, fitness, wellness and longevity.please feel free to check her IG for the most decadent recipes, ideas and all things health (link above)
I was born and raised in the UAE, studied nutrition in the UK and US for 5 long years and now here I am helping people find balance without restriction. I base my philosophy of eating on using real food and ingredients to nourish our bodies, minds and souls. My ultimate goal is to make eating well uncomplicated, unrestricted and to help people find food freedom because eating food is so much more fun than restricting it.
Now with a little introduction underway- I took the time and this opportunity to ask her some of my burning questions about nutrition, diet, health and fitness.
- Most people never consciously think about nutrition till they are in their early 20s – How would you suggest someone find their foot in nutrition?
Cooking your own food! As food becomes more and more available to us, in packages or as fast food, we are cooking lesser.
I really do think part of this exposure comes from our childhood, how much we were helping out in the kitchen, so parents play a huge role but, it’s never too late to start.
Cooking your own food gives you the control of what’s going in the food, it’s definitely fresher than something you’d buy at a restaurant and you are more aware of whats going in the food and how you can better it. You also save some money which is definitely a big perk.
Start with making it a family activity. If you live alone, try and eat out lesser, invite your friends’ home for a change. If you’re new to it, there are plenty of YouTube videos for beginners.
- In your personal journey through living in multiple places and experiencing different cultures, what do you think is the most consistent whole food habit that needs to be highlighted? (I.e. could be traditional relationships with food, more about fuelling your body and not restricting hating etc.)
I’ve lived in several different countries and something I’ve seen repeatedly is that people are becoming more and more afraid of food once their body consciousness kicks in. As a society, we need to promote more of the idea that food is nourishment, we need it to thrive and that restriction is just setting us up to fail. We need to make peace with food instead of just taking certain food groups out to look a certain way. The focus on weight loss is so vast that people are either forgetting or ignoring the fact that we need food to survive, to thrive and to be our best self. We need to eat real.
- Eating based on your body’s metabolism is widely accepted. But how do we know for sure (without getting medically tested) which type is ours? And how much do your genes and how you grew up impact that conclusion?
Without medical testing, the only way is to listen to your body. Try and understand what foods work for you and which ones make you feel uncomfortable (bloating, acne, constipation/diarrhea are common symptoms). Eat intuitively – basically listen to your body’s hunger signals. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.
There definitely is a genetic influence on what and how we can eat but it doesn’t have to determine your future, you have the power to change your metabolism. So, the genes play a minor role effect but the environment you are in play a much larger role.
- Apart from growing up, our diets, lifestyles and location impact our nutrition and health- what can we do to better anticipate these changes?
It may sound repetitive but eat real and whole foods with minimal processing. No matter your location or lifestyle, if you are concentrating on eating fresh foods at all times, you can find something wherever you are. Eating local definitely helps, try sticking to the foods local to a certain region because they are farm to form, they don’t travel long distances to be on your plate. This is easier said than done of course but try.
- We have recently developed a case of “carb-hating” or “carb-fearing” practices. It’s what is generally portrayed across social media, mainstream media such a films and television. What would you like to tell our readers?
If you want to gain weight faster than you lost it and be on a constant low carb or keto-diet, then carb-hating is for you. Carbohydrates are a major food group, they were made part of the food plate to be included and NOT to be removed. We need carbohydrates to thrive and give us sustained energy, our muscles need it to survive. We are only developing a fear towards carbs because we are either eating more than necessary or eating them without a proper balance of other nutrients.
In fact, regions with the longest healthspans get averagely 50% of their calories from carbohydrates! So really the carb-fear is something the billion-dollar diet industry is making us believe is good for us because it produces fast weight loss results. But how long can you keep up with that?
- I cannot always splurge out on all organic resources, it’s not wallet –friendly. And at the same time, I don’t have the resources at home to make home made everything. What would be your advice on setting a balance?
Healthy eating is becoming more and more expensive because we are constantly on the lookout for “substitutes” for foods. You want a healthier alternative to sugar – you buy maple syrup. Not to say that substituting is bad, but it doesn’t come wallet friendly. If you stick to eating simple homemade food example – daal, rice, some vegetables on the side – it’s pretty inexpensive, its balanced and provides nourishment. You can spend a little more on buying well-sourced, high quality ingredients which will end up being cheaper than looking for a substitute for everything.
- What’s your take on our traditional daal-chawal (rice and lentils) food staples?
I love it. It’s perfectly balanced with protein, carb and fat (if you’re putting ghee on it). I really do think it’s the perfect meal. In addition to providing our body with the perfect ratio of the infamous “macros”, for us Indians, its comfort food. It brings our family together on the same table and everyone loves it.
- What is, in your opinion, the best sustainable diet plan for people in their twenties? Can that be a sustainable diet in their 30s?
Eating fresh and real foods. Let go of the processed & packaged food which is not only not good for us but also the environment. For example, a freshly rolled and pizza is definitely better for us than the packaged processed and dried versions. As a whole, I definitely think we need to stop turning to fast and processed foods available to us at minimal prices everywhere and eat more real food.
The more fad diets you follow, the more un-sustainable your lifestyle becomes.
- What are your thoughts on “Soul food” (not the southern American cuisine, but the concept of sometimes eating for your soul and not body)
I think eating for the soul is equally as important as eating for the body, of course one needs to find balance between the two. I really do like to believe that when you nourish your soul, you are inviting nourishment to your body. Finding balance between soul and body is key and when you start enjoying and eating fresh foods compared to packaged versions of the same, that balance comes effortlessly.
- Since a lot of social gatherings and activities revolve around alcohol- what is your suggestion on balanced intake of alcohol whilst not missing out on social opportunities?
Always drink 2 glasses of water between each drink to stay hydrated. Alcohol tends to really de-hydrate our bodies so re-hydrating it whilst drinking definitely helps more than hydrating the day after.
Stick to red wine for its heart health benefits if that’s your thing or use water with a lemon as a mixer to skip out on the extra sugar coming from juices.
Also, easier said than done, but try not to over-do it EVERYTIME you drink. Sometimes – its ok. I get it, we’re having fun at a party and we tend to drink a tad bit much but i’m all about reducing the damage in the most realistic of ways so just don’t do it every time.
I already feel the cloud of confusion surrounding healthy eating being lifted. Do you? My takeaway from this conversation is – be mindful of what you eat (and how you source it) and everything in moderation!!
To end this lovely conversation, I decided to ask Aahat some very important questions-
- Italian or French cuisine? Italian – I love a good pizza or a freshly rolled pasta
- Indian or Mexican cuisine? Indian
- Daal chawal or salad? Daal Chawal – I’d choose that any day.
- Cold brew all day every day or Morning espresso? – Almond milk Latte?
- Mango everything or Pumpkin spice everything? – MANGO (its mango season so that might be influencing this answer)
- Still or sparkling? – Still – i’m boring sometimes
- Cheesecake or chocolate cake? – Tough one! I’d say both but if I had to be stuck with one of them forever – chocolate cake.
- Mints or Gum? – Not really a fan of either but gum?